One of the iconic stories in Ovid s Metamorphoses is the terrible tale of Philomela raped by her brother in law and then silenced by him hacking out her tongue so that she can t accuse him or speak out about her ordeal It s this classic intertwining of violence against women and the muting of female voices which drives Solnit s memoir Don t come to this expecting anything like a conventional autobiography Solnit retains a sense of privacy with regard to her personal life Instead this is a ind of biography of her voice how she moves from a young woman harassed on the streets of 1980s San Francisco and aware of violence against women all around her to the advocate essayist and outspoken feminist writer she is today Solnit may not be a supreme stylist but she is intelligent honest compassionate and empathetic she has that ability to reach out via her words to move from the individual to a voice for other women but without appropriating others experiences as her own She can be funny too not least when recounting how she came to write her classic essay Men Explain Things To Me Sharp but accessible thoughtful committed a must read for Solnit groupies and those new to her writingMany thanks to Granta for an ARC via NetGalley This book wasfine I enjoy reading Solnit s essays so I was looking forward to reading her memoir thinking that I would actually learn a bit about her This was very much focused on Solnit finding her voice and learning how to use it through her writing The problem is that she neglects to tell the reader anything personal about herself I felt so disconnected from the author She almost completely skips over her childhood and starts the memoir with her as a young adult living on her own She skims over relationships friendships or anything that would showcase emotion Solnit spends a large chunk of the book going over events of the 1970s and 1980s dropping names of artists and writers and movements that I ve never heard of and only spending 20 pages or so on her career from the 2000s This memoir was my first foray into Solnit s long form writing after having become a fan of her feminist essays through which she gained popularity If you liked those this personal piece will likely resonate with you too her essays have a very distinct voice that blends the political and the anecdotal the political is personal after all while remaining inclusive and this memoir is written in the same vein I love the title and it s really the aptest one she could ve gone with since the thread running throughout each chapter is how she found her voice in a society that would ve preferred to rob women of one I became silently furious back in the day when I had no clear feminist ideas just swirling inchoate feelings of indignation and insubordination A great urge to disrupt the event reviewer s note the opening for an exhibition of Allen Ginsberg photographs with two sad mentally ill women as the only female subjects in the entire show overtook me I wanted to shout and to shout that I was not disrupting it because a woman is no one and to shout that since I did not exist my shouting did not exist either and could not be objectionable I was in that room that time clear and angry about my nonexistence that was otherwise mostly just brooding anxiety somewhere below the surface Keeping her background as a writer on art culture places and political and environmental issues in mind it might not come as a surprise that this is not your standard biography You won t learn much about Solnit as a person as far as hard facts go and often than not it was not so much about her but rather about what was happening around her and how that influenced her life s trajectory It s of a series of snapshots of a different time and
a portrait the artist as a young woman recounting the watershed moments in her formative years and beyond that led to her becoming the writer and activist that she is while fighting against a culture that wanted to silence and erase her make her disappearIn ways than that wanted to silence and erase her make her disappearIn ways than it reminded me of Patti Smith s airy bohemian memoirs but less dreamy tangible and coherent and Solnit criticizes many of the artists Smith reveres The language is lyrical the feelings very relatable and much like Just Kids was a love letter to New York City in the late 60 s and early 70 s Recollections Of My Nonexistence is an ode to 1980s San Francisco with its vibrant ueer culture before the gentrification which she contributed to despite the pervasive atmosphere of gender violence and also to the vast expanse of the American West in which she found direction and clarity by solitarily drifting and wandering as Smith did in Year of the Monkey She made me nostalgic for a time I haven t lived through in a city I ve only ever visited once and deserts I ve only driven through on dusty roads Out on your own you re a new immigrant to the nation of adults and the customs are strange you re learning to hold together all the pieces of a life figure out what that life is going to be and who is going to be part of it and what you will do with your self determination You are in your youth walking down a long road that will branch and branch again and your life is full of choices with huge and unpredictable conseuences and you rarely get to come back and choose the other route You are making something a life a self and it is an intensely creative task as well as one at which it is than possible to fail a little a lot miserably fatally I have no regrets about the roads I took but a little nostalgia for that period when most of the route is ahead for that stage in which you might become many things that is so much the promise of youth now that I have chosen and chosen again and again and am far down one road and far past many others Possibility means that you might be many things that you are not yet and it is intoxicating when it s not terrifying The evocativeness of her writing is probably a big part of how she always manages to leave me feeling hopeful despite the horrid things it often dwells upon Many feminist works gets me angry and riles me up which is good and necessary nasty women get shit done but too much of it and in the long run you ll just wear out and despair Solnit walks that fine line. An electric portrait of the artist as a young woman that asks how a writer finds her voice in a society that prefers women to be silentIn Recollections of My Nonexistence Rebecca Solnit describes her formation as a writer and as a feminist in 1980s San Francisco in an atmosphere of gender violence on the street and throughout society and the exclusion of women from cultural arenas She tells of being poor hopeful and adrift in the city that became her great teacher; of the small apartment that when she was. Of educating and empowering while also encouraging to believe in the potential for change She s lived through many seismic shifts in society herself which has given her her own hope and she passes it along to the reader as a little light to Rescuing Gus keep you safe and hopeful in the darkIn digital books I often highlight uotes that make an impression on me either because of the beauty of the writing itself the pictures they evoke the relatable feelings they describe or sometimes even just because I think that they d fit into a later review nicely but I m finding that I did a poor job here or rather Solnit did hers exceptionally well I didn t highlight sentences passages or even paragraphs but entire pages Solnit is an author I have meant to read for uite a while I have another book of hers somewhere around here that I received in one of my book boxes I now regret waited so long as she is a fabulous writer essayistShe writes about the apartment in San Fransisco that she lived in for a decade A beautiful apartment in San Francisco in an all black neighborhood a neighborhood that was full of life As in all the essays in this book she than turns way from herself and talks about all the people cultures that have been misplaced Either for money or ventures that will make money or just because someone else wanted what someone else already had Again the haves and have notsShe talks about violence against women men who think they have the right to a women s body Expectations on how bodies should look to appeal to men of to feel good about oneself Socities expectations Her own brushes with violence and again she turns away from her own story to tell of violence against other women As well as historical bias against women victims of crimeBooks and what they mean to her Her writing life and so much Elegantly and gracefully written Her words just flowed Yes I was impressed and once I can put my hands on that book that is somewhere on some pile I fully intend to dive inARc from Edelweiss 45 rounded downWhen I heard Rebecca Solnit was publishing a memoir this year it uickly became one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 having enjoyed a number of her previous collections including Whose Story Is This Old Conflicts New Chapters A Field Guide to Getting Lost The Faraway Nearby and Call Them by Their True Names American Crises to name but a few Solnit is one of my favourite living essayists And this is a very Solnit memoir Rather than being a straight retelling of the formative events of her life thus far the reader learns about the author and how she has become the writer she is today through snippets of her past which are seamlessly weaved into writing in a style typical of her essays Aey theme is duh her identity and how gender is inextricably linked to that and how her experience of gender through her life as a white American woman in the 20th and 21st centuries has contributed to the writer she has become today I found myself relating closely to a lot of what she said and ended up highlighting long sections of writing There ve been times in the past where I ve felt that even though the topics she has chosen to write about are uite zeitgeist y and the essays are published still in that moment that they already feel a bit pass but I have to say I never felt that hereHighly recommended to everyone but I think those who are already fans of Solnit will enjoy this even Thank you Netgalley and Granta Publications for the advance copy which was provided in exchange for an honest review My my my that was an exuisite though provoking sublime powerful bookSure it s a memoir but it s much Solnit recollects a writer s life and the history the journey the articulation of the craft the circuitous route to productivity and readership was as inspirational as it was engaging interesting and inspiringBut ultimately Solnit s voice is a woman s voice and not merely a powerful voice but a clear and compelling and lyrical voice speaking about the evolution of her voice And that s a remarkable story well toldI m not sure what it says that until recently I was almost entirely unfamiliar with Solnit and that left to my own devices I never would have found her or this book My sense is that Traister s GOOD AND MAD which I read at just the right moment and found compelling and now freuently recommend Contemplative and mesmerizing Recollections of My Nonexistence thoughtfully charts the famous essayist s coming of age as a thinker activist and writer In lucid prose Solnit recounts how in her late teens she left her suburban Californian home lonely and silenced for the promise of a vibrant life as a woman artist in San Francisco embarking upon a decades long uest to write books join intentional communities and inspire political change Across eight chapters each moving at a deliberate pace Solnit drifts from recollection intentional communities and inspire political change Across eight chapters each moving at a deliberate pace Solnit drifts from recollection recollection of what it felt like to grow intoplace a portrait
White Womanhood Navigating A Culture Of Sexism And Racism Atwomanhood navigating a culture of sexism and racism at time when political and cultural change seemed a distant dream Along the way she seamlessly embeds the social history of San Francisco and the American West into her account of her own life The work s easily one of Solnit s best and invites rereading Readers like me who over Rebecca Solnit s thirty years of writing have fallen in love with her seismic world shifting essays will not be disappointed in this memoir her first longform writing in seven years True to her form this is a memoir not necessarily of the events of Solnit s coming of age but rather the greater influences in her development as a feminist an activist and a writer in 1980s San Francisco In these pages Solnit describes the formation of her own powerful voice while interrogating the culture that routinely silences women through violence and disregard By sharing these formative years Solnit is sure to inspire and vindicate generations of women and offer much needed encouragement to people of all genders to invest in voices long suppressed One does not review Solnit one imbibes her wisdom and words and feels grateful Having read a few of Rebecca Solnit s collections I m used to her meandering mind or circular style of narrative so while this might have a memoir tag that indicates a book recounts a slice Nineteen became the home in which she transformed herself; of how punk rock gave form and voice to her own fury and explosive energySolnit recounts how she came to recognize the epidemic of violence against women around her the street harassment that unsettled her the trauma that changed her and the authority figures who routinely disdained and disbelieved girls and women including her Looking back she sees all these as conseuences of the voicelessness that was and still is the ordinary condition of wome. F the author s life Solnit s essays are less slice of life and thought bubbles as she starts out recalling her early adult life eight years in a neighbourhood of San Franscisco the people she came into contact with the situations she avoided as a woman and then pauses now from years afar and wonders about her impact on that neighbourhood her contribution to its demise to its gentrification removing its diversity colour vibrancy and ultimately affordabilityThe title perhaps pays homage to Diana di Prima s Recollections of My Life as a Woman The New York Years a feminist beatnik poet I first came across earlier in 2020 when I was reading all I could about the year 1968 the year she wrote Revolutionary Letters a series of poems composed of utopian anarchism and ecological awareness scribbled from a spiritual feminist perspective All touch points within Solnit s reportoire however she writes in and of a different era scratching at the surface of our nonexistence how that is actively contributed to by others and of herour own handRecalling a sensation of disappearing as if on the verge of fainting rather than the world disappearing she senses herself disappear Thus introduces the metaphor of nonexistence and discoversexposes the many ways it is enactedIn those days I was trying to disappear and to appear trying to be safe and to be someone and those agendas were often at odds with each otherBecause of the meandering style it s not easy to recall which particular vignette or essay has the most impact however I note that I ve highlighted 107 passages her words provoke recollect igniting the reader s memory and own experienceShe struggles writing poetry as a young woman not doing it well but ferociously unaware of what or why she was resisting often resulting in a murky incoherent erratic defiance something she observes today as young women around her fight the same battlesThe fight wasn t just to survive bodily though that could be intense enough but to survive as a person possessed of rights including the right to participation and dignity and a voice More than survive then to liveAnd though we all now we learn from our own experiences there is something reassuring in reading or hearing of those who ve trod a similar path she expresses a desire that the young women coming after her might skip some of the old obstacles that some of her writing exists to that end at least by naming those obstaclesDiscussing harassment and violence towards women particularly young women she ponders how and what she is able to do differently being an older woman compared to how she reacted and behaved in youth So much of what makes young women good targets is self doubt and self effacementObserving how we strengthen our purpose over time gaining orientation and clarity she recognises something like ripeness and calm flowing in as the urgency and naivet of youth ebb I think of this her book The Faraway Nearby where she revisits childhood and a difficult mother unrecognisable in the woman she then tends neither of them who they once were there is no need to hang on to the earlier version Ripeness was a metaphor here too one she desired to observe mature fully she left a pile of apricots picked from the trees on the floor of a room like an art installation left to mature rot transformIn the collection she looks back at her own evolution as a writer and recalls for example the conversation that provoked the essay Men Explain Things to Me as a
and recalls example the conversation that provokedwriter and recalls
the essay Men Explain Things to Me went on to become that new word that has now become mainstream mansplainingessay Men Explain Things to Me went on to become that new word that has now become mainstream mansplaining rereads photocopies of letters in handwriting that is no longer her own and meets a person who was her but no longer exists who didn t now how to speakThe young writer I met there didn t Portrait of a Starter: An Unhidden Story know how to speak from the heart though I could be affectionateShe was speaking in various voices because she didn t yetnow what voice was hers or rather she had not yet made oneFurnishing her mind with readings they become part of the euipment of imagination her set of tools for understanding the world creating patterns learning enough to trace paths though the forests of books learn landmarks and lineages She celebrates the pleasure of meeting new voices ideas and possibilities that help make the world coherent in some way extending or filling in the map of one s universe grateful for their ability to bring beauty find pattern and meaning creating pure joyDiscussing patterns of how women were portrayed in novels by men she read in the past she becomes aware of relating to the part of the male protagonist where women devoured to the bone are praised often those insistent on their own desires needs are reviled or rebuked for taking up space making noise You are punished unless you punish yourself into nonexistence It was Nella Larsen author of uicksand and Passing who said Authors do not supply imaginations they expect their readers to have their own and to use it and Rebecca Solnit carries that thought further and observes something astonishing about readingabout that suspension of your own time and place to travel into others It s a way of disappearing from where you area world arises in your head that you have built at the author s behest and when you re present in that world you re absent from you ownIt s the reader who brings the book to lifeShe finds research exciting and piecing together a nonfiction narrative like craft and medicine combined a combination of creativity and healingResearch is often portrayed as dreary and diligent but for those with a taste for this detective work there s the thrill of the chase of hunting data flushing obscure things out of hiding of finding fragments that assemble into a pictureEven if some of this is familiar from previous works it is the reworking of the landscape of her mind the rearranging of those experiences interviews a mature awareness and wakefulness that makes her work so readable engaging and accessible and relevant to what is happening in the fast changing world we inhabitNonfiction is at its best an act of putting the world back together or tearing some piece of it apart to find what s hidden beneath the assumptions or conventionsrecognizing the patterns that begin to arise as the fragments begin to assembleHighly Recommended. N and how she contended with that while becoming a writer and a public voice for women’s rightsShe explores the forces that liberated her as a person and as a writer books themselves the gay men around her who offered other visions of what gender family and joy could be and her eventual arrival in the spacious landscapes and overlooked conflicts of the American West These influences taught her how to write in the way she has ever since and gave her a voice that has resonated with and empowered many othe.